Throughout American history, protesters have played an important role in giving a voice to minority groups and opinions, and in bringing about change.


5 - 8


Social Studies, Civics


New York Protesters

Protesters have often been the catalyst needed for change. This group is protesting in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act.

Photograph by AFP Contributor 
Protesters have often been the catalyst needed for change. This group is protesting in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act.

A protester is a person who publicly voices a strong objection to something. Protesters often engage in public events organized to express disapproval of a government or organization’s action or failure to take action. Such protests may include marches, demonstrations, rallies, and sit-ins. Strikes and boycotts are other tools commonly used by protesters. Protesters may also engage in letter-writing campaigns, petitions, or lobbying to build support for their cause.

In the United States, the right to peacefully protest is protected by the First Amendment, which specifically protects freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government. Some people argue that engaging in protest against injustice is an important responsibility of citizenship.

Protesters serve an important purpose in a democracy. In systems ruled by majority vote, protesters provide a voice for minority groups and opinions. Although reforms and improvements in social justice often take many years or even decades to achieve, protest movements are also often successful in bringing about swifter change.

Protest is as old as the United States itself. Indeed, the nation was born at the hands of protesters who stood up against the British Parliament. Protesters also played an instrumental role in securing basic rights for African Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities. Protesters fought for women’s suffrage, ultimately achieving this goal with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The Civil Rights Movement involved protesters at all levels of society. The protest movement eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the end of Jim Crow laws in the South. Since then, protesters have been engaged in calling attention to issues large and small, from demanding an end to the Vietnam War and other military interventions to voicing their concerns about individual candidates or elected officials, Supreme Court decisions, government policies, or laws. Beyond the United States, protesters have also succeeded in bringing to the world’s attention human rights abuses and the plight of some of the world’s poorest citizens.

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Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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